Land Management

Waquoit Bay Research Reserve Land Management

The Reserve actively manages the properties in its care to allow for appropriate recreational and research uses while protecting  natural, historic, and cultural resources. Special consideration is given to habitats identified as vulnerable or at risk, such as sand plain grassland communities, and areas used by anadromous fish and New England cottontail rabbits.

Protected Species Management

The Reserve currently has an organized approach for monitoring and managing protected species and their habitats. For example, competing plants are mowed or burned in order to allow rare plants to flourish. Shorebirds are protected by closing areas to human activities and by artificially protecting nests from natural predation.

Due to the maturation of forest lands within the Reserve, increasing impacts from changes in local and regional climate, and sea level rise, the Reserve plans to undertake an ecological vulnerability assessment.  This assessment is intended to identify habitats and communities that are most at risk from predicted changes in climate and sea level rise and to identify management, protection and restoration strategies to mitigate these risks.

Threatened Shorebirds

There are two species of concern on Reserve property; the piping plover and the least tern. The Federal government lists the piping plover as a threatened species of shore bird. Piping plovers presently nest in limited numbers on South Cape Beach and the beach at the southern end of Washburn Island. Because their eggs are laid on the ground and are well camouflaged, they are often accidentally damaged or destroyed by human actions. Nests on the ground also make the eggs easily accessible to predators.  The Reserve’s Seasonal Shorebird Manager works in cooperation with the Massachusetts Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Environmental Law Enforcement (DFWELE) and the Massachusetts Audubon Society. The Reserve trains volunteers to 1) recognize signs of mating and nesting activity and 2) to erect predator exclusion fences to protect eggs and hatchlings. Volunteers inform beach-goers about risks to the birds’ nests and chicks from dogs, flying kites, and other human activities on the beach. The seasonal shorebird manager tallies adult bird pairs and egg and fledgling numbers.

Least terns (Sterna antillarum), a state species of special concern, are present at South Cape Beach and have historically nested there. Roseate terns, common terns, willets, and American oyster catchers also feed at South Cape Beach and may nest there as well. Reserve staff monitors the activities of all five species.

Land management
Sandplain Geradia

Rare Plants

The Reserve is host to several rare plant species, including Agalinis acuta (sandplain gerardia) and Liatris borealis (New England blazing star). For more information on how the Reserve manages these habitats, click here.


Applicable rules and regulations are posted throughout Reserve lands and described in literature available at Reserve facilities and from Reserve staff.

When appropriate, all WBNERR staff educates Reserve visitors about rules and regulations and appropriate behaviors and activities. In particular, the Island Managers and the Shorebird Manager are trained and are responsible for educating visitors to the heavily used Washburn Island and South Cape Beach areas of the Reserve, respectively.